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2005 duPont Award Winners: ‘Ghosts of Rwanda’

Jan 10, 2005  •  Post A Comment

When Greg Barker visited Rwanda in 1997, three years after the state-sponsored genocide of 800,000 people, he quickly knew there was a new story to tell.

The story was not so much about what happened-though the massacre is certainly a key part of “Ghosts of Rwanda”-but how it happened. “I wanted to tell this incredible human story that I believed has relevance to all of us: What do we do individually and collectively when confronted by what people call evil?” he asked. “By telling the stories of people who had to face this test that most of us never face in our personal lives I felt we could all learn something and try to do justice [to] and honor the people who died. And at a broader level it’s important to keep telling the story of Rwanda.”

Part of that story is how the international community, including the United States, refused to intervene as those 800,000 Rwandans were hunted down and murdered by Hutu extremists, their fellow Rwandans, Mr. Barker said.

During Mr. Barker’s visit to Rwanda in the late ’90s, he interviewed United Nations aid workers and survivors and later talked to U.N. peacekeepers who witnessed the killings that lasted 100 days in 1994.

“They talked about confronting the evil within the human soul. When they were there, they came face to face with the dark side of humanity and were tested as to who they were and how they responded,” he said. ” Most people felt they failed, even those who were incredibly brave and stayed.”

One U.N. peacekeeper, a Senegalese officer, saved about 1,000 people single-handedly, driving them through checkpoints in his Land Rover. He was later killed.

As the 10th anniversary grew closer, “Frontline” asked Mr. Barker to make the film. The documentary features interviews with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake.

“For me, the failure of Rwanda is 10 times greater than the failure of Yugoslavia,” Mr. Boutros-Ghali said in the film, “Because in Yugoslavia the international community was interested, was involved. In Rwanda nobody was interested. So we have to fight two problems. The tragedy as such and the indifference of the international community.”

Since the film aired in April 2004, Kofi Annan has asked for a copy and President Bush has also received one, Mr. Barker said.